Judge rules Joergensen will remain in custody

SAN LUIS — Accused of setting the Spring Creek Fire, Jesper Joergensen will remain in custody after a judge refused to dismiss criminal charges against him following a virtual hearing Monday morning in which the defendant was determined still mentally incompetent to stand trial.

Joergensen, 53, a Danish native who was in the United States on an expired visa at the time of the Spring Creek Fire in 2018, is charged with 349 counts of arson.

Believing Joergensen was being held by International Customs and Enforcement (ICE) agents as an illegal alien from Denmark and would be deported when the arson cases were dealt with, attorneys said ICE has no intention of dealing with Joergensen. Court-appointed attorney Jane Fisher-Byrialsin said attempts to communicate with ICE were unsuccessful.

“How long will we have to wait for his competency to be determined,” Fisher-Byrialsin asked the court.

Presiding Retired District Judge Gregory Lyman of Durango has held numerous hearings by phone and virtually. Retired judges preside on a part-time basis.

More than 108,000 acres burned and at least 141 homes were destroyed in Costilla and Huerfano counties, and Joergensen was declared incompetent to stand trial in July 2019

Joergensen has been in jail more than eight months and his condition is worsening because he refuses to take medication that might help with a severe delusional disorder. He has been treated by state experts in residential care and in the care of the Colorado Dept. of Health and Human Services. Attempts to move him to the Colorado Mental Health Institute at Pueblo have been unsuccessful.

Lyman said he wants to make every effort to ensure that Joergensen can face trial by a jury of his peers. Attorneys and the court have discussed dropping charges against him and deporting him back to Denmark, but a moratorium is in effect and Joergensen cannot be released on his own.

“He will be transported to the State Hospital, Lyman said, closing the hearing.

The judge told the listeners in Monday’s virtual hearing that he decided Joergensen would continue to be held with his case reviewed monthly.

He denied her standing motion to dismiss and set an evaluation for March 29 with a hearing at 10 a.m. April 5.